OnStream introduces "value"-priced tape drives

Posted on November 01, 1998

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OnStream introduces "value"-priced tape drives

Heidi Biggar

Ending recent speculation about its entry into the tape market, at Comdex this month OnStream (Longmount, CO) will unveil its lineup, which includes a 15GB desktop drive and a 15GB/25GB model for low-end server applications. Starting at $299 and $499, respectively, the drives have been priced to compete in the robust removable storage arena--a market that is expected to top 53 million units in 2001.

Says Andrew Grolnick, vice president of worldwide marketing at OnStream and a former Iomega executive, "At Iomega, I helped grow the Zip business to over a billion-dollar market. We see a similar opportunity at OnStream--that is, to build a business with that magnitude." Leading OnStream`s foray into the heavily contested tape market is Bill Beierwaltes, founder and CEO of Colorado Memory Systems.

With stiff competition from removable magnetic disk products such as Zip and Jaz; relative newcomers SuperDisk and HiFD; and potentially NFR, some industry analysts believe OnStream is going to have a tough sell.

"OnStream is targeting a segment of the market (i.e., low-cost servers and high-end desktop) where there is tremendous market potential," says Bob Amatruda, an analyst with International Data Corp. in Framingham, MA. However, low-end tape is struggling, to say the least. In 1997, reports IDC, Travan declined 27%, and a 19% decline is expected this year.

Nonetheless, OnStream is betting its "value"-priced drives will sway users--old and new. "While hard drive capacities are growing, the prices on servers and desktops are decreasing," says Grolnick. "The cost of `insurance` on both segments of the market has effectively been going up. On the server side, tape capacities are doing a better job of keeping up with hard drives, but the prices have been pretty flat or increasing. DAT prices have remained around $1,000 for years, while server prices have really started to come down."

"There is a real disconnect here," states Grolnick. "I don`t think I would pay $10,000 to insure my $15,000 car."

Both drives feature a new linear tape format called advanced digital recording (ADR), which is an adaptation of the failed DCC technology previously marketed by Philips and is not compatible with any existing technology. The drives use a single eight-channel magneto-resistive (MR) head to read or write eight tracks of data simultaneously. The desktop drive is available in internal (DI-30) and external parallel (DP-30) configurations and features a 1MBps transfer rate and OnStream`s Echo software for "point-and-click" access to files from any application.

On the server side, OnStream has partnered with Seagate and Cheyenne for software solutions for its SI-50 (internal IDE) and SC-50 (internal SCSI) drives.


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